I wish to begin this post expressing my appreciation for Dr. Paige Patterson. I am grateful for his love for Christ and his leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention over the years. I have appreciated the way Dr. Patterson has graciously and publicly affirmed Dr. Mohler, a man who is President of a sister agency (Southern Seminary) but is miles apart from Patterson soteriologically. Dr. Patterson's personal affableness with Dr. Mohler during the debate at last year's Greensboro's Pastors Conference is well worth imitation by us all.
I say these heartfelt words about Dr. Patterson at the beginning of this post because there are some who erroneously believe that if one expresses written disagreement with Dr. Patterson then he must be either against Dr. Patterson, or worse, his enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth as far as I am concerned. I am grateful Dr. Patterson is a Southern Baptist and wish him, his family and his ministry at SWBTS untold blessings. I believe we are a better convention because of Dr. Patterson's involvement.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WE FACE IN THE SBC
The Southern Baptist Convention has so much going for her. I do believe, however, that there is a huge problem that is like an internal cancer. It will eat at us from the inside out unless we diagnose it, do all we can to convince the family (all Southern Baptists) that the disease is real, and take decisive, intentional steps to cut it out before we die from it.
There are some in the blog world, but particularly in the mainstream media, who are trying to color the current controversy in the SBC in terms of Calvinists vs. Arminians, or Charismatics vs. non-Charismatics, or Landmarkers vs. non-Landmarkers, or Abstainers vs. Moderationists or Conservatives vs. neo-conservatives, etc . . .
These issues are not the root problem in the SBC. There have been preachers and people within the SBC who have held to different sides of each of the above named issues since the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845.
The current problem we face in the convention is an attempt to make everyone conform to, and affirm completely, ONE uniform interpretation of the above named issues. There are some in leadership who see themselves as the guardians and gatekeepers of doctrinal purity, and feel it their calling to either remove Southern Baptists from leadership who don't side with them, or at least to prevent any Southern Baptist from serving as a trustee or employee of an SBC agency who disagrees. Not all of the above issues are in the current dialogue, but it is certain that, given time, they all will be.
The demand for conformity of interpretations of the sacred text is the problem. The controversy among us is not about what the text is, it is about what the text says. The problem we face is not about a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, but in the sufficiency of Scripture. In other words, there is not agreement in interpretation --- but that's not bad. Diversity is the middle name of Southern Baptists.
The Cooperative Program only works when diverse and different churches, pastors, and people COOPERATE. If we continue to narrow the definition of what it means to be a Baptist, and demand conformity on doctrinal interpretations of the text that are not addressed by the BFM 2000 in order to serve, we should change the name of the Cooperative Program to the Non-Cooperative Program. I feel Dr. Patterson desires this conformity, and seeks to use his influence to bring it about.
A QUOTE THAT REVEALS DR. PATTERSON'S MINDSET
There is an article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram dated Wednesday, October 18, 2006 where Dr. Patterson is quoted extensively about his position on tongues and his SWBTS trustee, Dwight McKissic, who speaks in tongues privately. There is a very memorable line toward the end of the article that I believe illustrates Dr. Patterson's desire for the SBC.
"I have opposed [speaking in tongues] for all of these years because I think it's an erroneous interpretation of the Bible," Patterson said. "Southern Baptists traditionally have stood against what we feel like are the excesses of the charismatic movement. All we're doing is restating where we've always been."
Baptists are "the most intense advocates of religious liberty," Patterson said, defending the right of other Christians to believe in speaking in tongues.
"But don't wear a Yankee uniform when you play for the Mets," said Patterson
I love this quote.
It made me chuckle when I read it. It's one of the things I like about Dr. Patterson --- you never have to wonder what he thinks.
ONE DAY THE YANKEES WON'T HAVE ANY FANS LEFT TO SEE THEM PLAY
If we accept Dr. Patterson's view regarding the SBC we will eventually die as a convention. How will we die? In numbers of people who are called Southern Baptists.
We will not stop narrowing when the private prayer language issue is over. We will not stop the narrowing when we forget about the new demand that believer's baptism be performed by a Southern Baptist or a 'church' that believes in eternal security (I still don't understand how a 'church' baptizes somebody). We will continue down this slippery slope of narrowing to the point that we demand what a 'true' Southern Baptist should believe about soteriology, eschatology, ecclesiology, etc . . .
I think SBC pastors are already disconnected from their congregations. Nobody in our churches cares if somebody prays privately in tongues, as long as that tongues speaker doesn't disrupt the worship of others, or demand that everyone have the gift.
Nobody in our churches cares if a person was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church, evangelical church, freewill church, congregational church, etc . . . as long as they followed the Lord in believer's baptism.
Nobody in our churches cares if somebody drinks, as long as that person isn't controlled by it or becomes drunk and puts his life and other lives in danger.
Nobody in our churches cares if a person is a Calvinist or not; they just want to know if their fellow church members love Christ. Nobody cares if their brother in Christ is a historic premillenialist or a dispensationalist.
And I could argue that solid, evangelical conservative scholars throughout the centuries have argued both sides of the above issues from the Scriptures.
But there are certain Southern Baptist pastors and denominational leaders who do care about these things. They care a great deal.
In fact, they care so much about these issues that they say, "If you don't agree with us, then you are not truly a Southern Baptist and should not be in leadership positions. In fact, you ought to ask yourself if you should even be a part of the SBC. Go join a Pentecstal Church. Go become a Presbyterian. Go join the Methodists. Go somewhere else if you can't affirm our interpretations of the text."
In other words, "Don't wear a Yankee uniform when you play for the Mets."
DR. PATTERSON'S VIEW OF THE SBC IS THAT OF ONE TEAM (the Yankees) --- MY VIEW OF THE SBC IS ONE LEAGUE WITH MANY TEAMS (Major League Baseball).
If the Southern Baptist Convention is like the Yankees, then churches must look the same, act the same, believe the same, etc . . . (just like the Yankees can have no facial hair, must wear the same uniform, etc . . .)
But if the Southern Baptist Convention is like the Major Leagues, then churches can have their own identity. They will not look the same, play the game the same way, have the same goals, or even finish the season in the same place, but they will all be servants of the same Master, Jesus Christ (just like the teams in the Major Leagues are all different but all play the same game --- baseball).
We are narrowing our Major League Convention down to a professional baseball team.
We are booting out of the ballpark those who aren't Yankees. We don't want Mets. We don't want Astros. We don't want Cubs. We want Yankees.
Someone will say, "But we can't boot anybody out of the SBC --- people leave on their own." Yes, you are right, but if there is one thing people in this country should know it is that "Taxation without representation will always lead to a revolution." To take Cooperative Program funds from churches, but then refuse to appoint their missionaries, will lead to a revolution. For the convention to appoint a trustee or an agency head who speak in tongues privately, but then to say, "We don't want you because what you believe or practice is harmful to the churches" is doing all you can to tell a man he is a Met at heart and should not be playing for the Yankees.
DR. PATTERSON HAS THE RIGHT TO NARROW SWBTS BUT NOT THE IMB
The trustees of SWBTS hired Dr. Patterson. The President of any agency has the perogative to set the agenda, policy and guidelines that he desires --- or at least he should.
Trustees should follow their President, or if they can't, they should terminate him. It is obvious that the trustees at SWBTS are overwhelmingly in support of their Presdient on his doctrinal positions regarding cessationism. Even though Dr. Patterson's views go beyond the BFM 2000, he has the right to establish policy that bars continualists from teaching at his school. Southern Seminary in Lousville follows what is called "The Abstract of Principles," a document that goes well beyond the BFM 2000 in demanding conformity in soterological views of professors who teach at Southern. It is Southern's perogative, and Dr Mohler's, to do this. In other words, each seminary can establish doctrinal requisites that go beyond the BFM 2000.
There are five other SBC seminaries.
SBC churches and theological students will vote with their wallets and pocket book as to which seminary is the best.
It will be very interesting to see enrollment numbers in the years to come.
A narrow ideology that forbids dissent and demands conformity, and most importantly, ignores the sufficiency of Scripture in matters of faith and practice and emphasizes tradition as in "Southern Baptists traditionally have stood against what we feel like are the excesses of the ________ movement" is ultimately the death knell of the institution.
We'll see for whom the bell tolls. I predict record enrollment numbers at Southern in the coming years and declining enrollment at Southwestern. It does not have to be that way, and I hope that I am proven wrong. Frankly, what Southwestern Seminary does is the business of the trustees, and not mine. Most of our young men and women at Emmanuel go to Southern or Golden Gate.
However, the International Mission Board should not set doctrinal requisites that EXCEED the BFM 2000.
There is only one mission board in the Southern Baptist Convention --- not six. You can't choose which misson board you are going to use.
The IMB facilitate CHURCHES WHO SEND THE MISSIONARIES.
THE IMB exists to support the churches, and without the churches there is no IMB, for that matter, there is no SBC.
When you narrow the parameters of cooperation to make the entire SBC look like the ONE team (the Yankees), you will lose the support base for the COOPERATIVE PROGRAM.
By the way, my church probably does not look like the church Dr. Patterson would pastor. I'm not saying his church would be wrong and we would be right --- we would just be different from each other. Further, I would NEVER demand that Dr. Patterson's church, were he a pastor, look like mine.
"Who's your favorite team? The Yankees?"
Dr. Patterson will tell you that you should be a Yankee to be a Southern Baptist. I am saying you can be a member of any of the teams in the Major Leagues and simply cooperate with the rest of us to make the Major League Convention the best possible Convention we can be. We can do it! It's called cooperation.
What I can't figure out is why this Met's man is being asked to wear a Yankee's hat.
We are all playing the same game.
In His Grace,